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Serum Institute of India to have 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses ready by January first week

The Indian government is planning to vaccinate 300 million people in the first wave of vaccination. The first phase will target 10 million frontline health workers by February.

December 31, 2020 / 02:49 PM IST
Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Serum Institute of India (SII) has stockpiled 75 million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine, and will be increasing it to 100 million doses by the first week of January.

"Nobody has this much stock of the product, ... everybody is looking at us for supplies," Umesh Shaligram, Director, Research and Development of SII said at a webinar organised by the Department of Biotechnology.

"As soon as we have emergency use authorization (EUA) we will be able to supply," Shaligram said.

Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute, earlier said that 50 percent of the vaccine supplies would go to India and the rest would go to COVAX, the WHO's programme to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to poorer countries. However, during the initial months, India would prioritise supplies.

The government is planning to vaccinate 300 million people in the first wave of vaccination. The first phase will target 10 million frontline health workers by February. In the second phase, 20 million frontline and essential workers would be administered the jab by March and in the third phase, 270 million people aged over 50 and with co-morbidities would be vaccinated by August.

Shaligram said that the data analysis showed that the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine was 70.4 percent effective, with a lower end of confidence interval at 54.8 percent effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 occurring more than 14 days after receiving two doses of the vaccine. WHO guidance says that the lower range of confidence interval shouldn't be less than 30 percent.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), India's drug regulator, will be meeting on January 1 to further review the emergency use applications of Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccines.

The SEC which met on December 30 couldn't take a decision on SII's COVID-19 vaccine, as it needed more data.

The UK government ,on December 30, approved the use of Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The UK nod is expected to strengthen the case for quick approval of the Serum Institute of India's emergency use authorisation application. SII is a partner of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca and is manufacturing the vaccine in India.

Shaligram also added that they will begin stockpiling of Novavax COVID-19 vaccines, as soon as they get permission from DCGI to conduct Phase 2/3 clinical trials in India.

Viswanath Pilla
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Dec 31, 2020 02:49 pm